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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 1, No. 40, April 21, 2003

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal



Jammu & Kashmir: The Prime Minister in the Valley - Political Tourism?
Guest Writer: Praveen Swami in Srinagar
Special Correspondent, Frontline

The optimistic version of events might read:

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, defying critics within his own party and the extreme Hindu right-wing, flew to Srinagar, and called for dialogue with Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists it sponsors. He chose to address his call directly to the people of Kashmir, risking terrorist assault. And he made clear his rejection of the intransigent nationalism which is supposedly the cause of the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir by choosing to end his April 18 rally in Srinagar with a plain and simple Namaskar, a traditional Hindu salutation, rather than the customary Jai Hind, which means 'Long Live India.'

The cynical interpretation might read:

Each summer, the British used to leave the scorching plains of India and take the train north into the Himalayas to their summer capital, Shimla. Each summer, the government of Jammu and Kashmir leaves the scorching plains of Jammu, and drives north to the more hospitable environs of Srinagar. Each summer, New Delhi's peace envoys leave the scorching plains of the national capital, and fly north to Kashmir. The State government, of course, is working hard to revive tourism.

Peace and dialogue are indisputable virtues, and there is little doubt of Prime Minister Vajpayee's commitment to both. In 1999, he defied security advisors in New Delhi and travelled to Lahore to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He was rewarded with the Kargil war. The next year, he responded to a brief unilateral ceasefire called by a faction of the Hizb-ul-Mujaheddin (HM) with a prolonged cutback in offensive operations, from November 2000 to May 2001. Again, the Prime Minister's ceasefire, initially intended to last just through the holy month of Ramzan was extended in the face of advice from the military, police and intelligence brass. It was to enable a brutal escalation in terrorist hostilities, which took the best part of a year to contain. This time, Vajpayee drew on his bitter experience, and launched a major new initiative. The security establishment in New Delhi, many of whom believed another ceasefire was to be announced, heaved a sign of relief.

Despite the enormous public relations hype surrounding Vajpayee's visit to Kashmir (for the record, Vajpayee is not the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the region since 1987, that honour going to HD Deve Gowda who addressed a rally in Uri just six years ago) the fact is the Prime Minister said relatively little. He promised the people of Jammu and Kashmir peace - "Spring will return to the beautiful Valley soon", he proclaimed, quoting a somewhat trite passage from the Kashmiri poet Mehjoor, "the flowers will bloom again and the nightingales will return, chirping" - but laid out no clear road-map for making this happen. And although Vajpayee offered to initiate a dialogue with Pakistan, he did so squarely within the four walls of recent Indian official policy, making it clear at an April 19 press conference that negotiations were contingent on Pakistan ending cross-border terrorism. There were no new concessions for the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) either, some of whose leaders chose to watch the Prime Minister's speech on television from their offices in Srinagar's Gogjibagh area.

Does this mean the visit was worthless? Probably not. Vajpayee did succeed in attracting a larger audience than any leader has gained in Jammu and Kashmir, some 30,000-odd even on conservative estimates. Most of the audience had been brought in by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's People's Democratic Party, the party that leads the coalition government now in power in Jammu and Kashmir. Although mainly rural, the audience came from a wide spread of areas, including some with strong traditions of secessionist mobilisation, like Baramulla, Bijbehara and Chrar-e-Sharif. Yet, few seemed to be there awaiting the announcement of a grand programme to address what is called the 'Kashmir problem'. "Most of the clapping", reported the Daily Excelsior, "was witnessed the moment Mufti or Vajpayee referred to the problem of unemployment."

There might be a lesson there for politicians in both Srinagar and New Delhi. The bizarre political line-up inspired by Vajpayee's visit suggests just how profoundly bankrupt political parties are when it comes to a coherent position on Jammu and Kashmir. Vajpayee received the enthusiastic political support of the People's Democratic Party - which is allied to the Congress (I) - and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), both of which chose not to stay away from the April 18 rally. The Prime Minister enthusiastically praised Chief Minister Sayeed's 'healing touch policy', which has been bitterly criticised by his own party, and attacked his coalition partner in New Delhi, the National Conference, which like the Congress (I) boycotted the rally. All of this suggests the major political groupings are wholly uncertain about just how to proceed in Jammu and Kashmir.

"Mufti Sahib ka kadwa sach, healing touch, healing touch", went one of the more popular slogans at the rally [Sayeed speaks the bitter truth, that a healing touch is needed]. The slogan takes one to the heart of ongoing events in Jammu and Kashmir, and to one little-noticed reality. Sayeed's 'healing touch' in essence amounts to a revival of the Ramzan ceasefire. Offensive counter-terrorist operations have more or less been wound up, and security forces in Jammu and Kashmir now rarely act, except on the basis of very specific information about the presence of terrorist cadres. At first glance, Sayeed's ceasefire seems to be working considerably better than Vajpayee's effort. On almost every conceivable index, Jammu and Kashmir has been a safer place during his reign than during the same period in previous years. Between November 2002, when the PDP-led coalition took office, to March 15, 2003, the numbers of terrorism-related violent incidents, attacks on security force personnel, the killings of civilians and security forces, all fell dramatically from the corresponding period of 2001-2002 and 2000-2001.

But one other figure gives cause for concern - and shows how misleading a casual glance at the data can be. The number of terrorists killed during Sayeed's reign has also fallen precipitously, from 797 between November 2001 and March 15, 2002, to 462 between November 2002 and March 15, 2003. The decline in the elimination of terrorists is far more marked than any other category of killings. There is nothing exceptionable about this, it might be argued, if the lives of civilian and security personnel are also saved. But the savage assault initiated after the Ramzan ceasefire actually saw security force killings fall in the November 2001 - March 15 2002 period from the same period of the previous year by 24.7%. By contrast, the fall from that time and the Sayeed period is just 21.8%. The fall in civilian casualties in the Sayeed period is 10.1%; it was 12.5% in the previous year of heightened warfare.

Put simply, then, the assertion that the 'healing touch' has led to a dramatic reduction of civilian and security force fatalities is flawed. In fact, the aggressive anti-terrorist operations of 2001-2002 were able to secure even sharper reductions, in percentage terms. Some of these fallacies of analysis have been perpetuated by people who ought to know better, notably Chief of Army Staff General Nirmal Vij. Speaking to journalists on March 23, he attributed the overall decline in fire contact with terrorists to the "weakness of militants and the increase in counter-terrorist operations" (emphasis added). Although no figures are available on the overall number of operations, the sharp reduction in attacks on security forces and killings of terrorists suggest these have declined. Even if Vij's assertion can be accepted at face value, his claim of terrorist weakness is absurd. In the 2001-2002 period, 4.92 terrorists were killed for every security force trooper whose life they took. That figure has now come down to 3.47, an obvious indicator of improved terrorist efficiency.

The bitter truth, then, is this:

Prime Minister Vajpayee's hand-picked interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, N.N. Vohra, will arrive in Srinagar with the intention of initiating a dialogue with terrorist groups and secessionist organisations who have repeatedly rejected one. They reject dialogue in the absence of the inclusion of Pakistan, their main sponsor. Pakistan will only talk while terror continues, because the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir is its sole instrument of leverage. Despite repeated plaints and promises, the United States of America has done nothing to actually push Pakistan to end cross-border terrorism. India cannot talk to Pakistan while terrorism continues, for precisely the same reason that Pakistan will only talk while it does. Peace initiatives in Jammu and Kashmir are predicated on the belief that stripping violence of political legitimacy will undermine terrorism. It will not. In the early 1990s, the jihadi groups had great mass support. They have none now, but twice as many people die each year in terrorist violence.

New Delhi needs to understand that the keys to peace lie, not in Srinagar, but in Islamabad - and, more important, to find ways to force open the locks if guardians of the keys continue to prove uncooperative.



Left Wing Terror: The MCC in Bihar and Jharkhand
Sanjay K Jha
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

In one of the most daring attacks on security forces (SF) in Bihar, extremist cadres - also referred to as Naxalites - of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) detonated a landmine killing eight police personnel in the forests of Cherki valley, under the Govindpur police station limits, Nawada district on the Bihar-Jharkhand border, on April 15. The Naxalites also looted six Self-Loading Rifles (SLRs), two rifles, one revolver and several rounds of ammunition and sneaked into the forests of Koderma in the neighbouring State of Jharkhand. Earlier, on April 14, approximately 150 Naxalites, including a large number of women cadres, of the MCC attacked a police post at Chanerapura railway station, Bokaro district in Jharkhand and looted 23 rifles and several hundred cartridges. The Naxalite cadres also indulged in violence during the 48-hour bandh (general shutdown) call given by the MCC and the People's War Group (PWG) to protest the US attack on Iraq.

Though the April 15 attack was the first major attack on security forces in Nawada district, the MCC, had carried out a number of such attacks over the year 2002-03. The attacks were more lethal and frequent in Jharkhand. On March 18, 2003, MCC cadres injured three police personnel and looted 15 rifles and 1,000 bullets in an attack on a police post in Lodipur village, Gaya district, Bihar. On February 10, 2003, the MCC killed six security force personnel in Latehar district, Jharkhand. On December 20, 2002, 19 police personnel were killed and 20 others injured when Naxalties of the MCC ambushed a police party in Saranda forests, at Bitkilsoya, West Singhbhum district. On November 20, 2002, eight security force personnel were killed in Latehar district. On October 9, 2002, seven police personnel were killed in Palamu district. On June 11, 2002, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) was killed, again in Palamu district. On May 7, 2002, during an economic blockade jointly called by the MCC and the PWG, at least 15 police personnel were killed in a landmine blast in Koderma district. On January 27, 2002, nine SF personnel were killed in Gumla district.

These attacks and recent Naxalite activities in Bihar and Jharkhand point to the increasing strength, lethality and reach of the MCC. The prevailing socio-political conditions, incoherent and ad hoc state responses, have provided the MCC the space and opportunities to expand and consolidate its base in these two States. Moreover, growing unity among the different Naxalite groups and deepening linkages with Maoists in Nepal have far reaching implications, not only for the growth of the MCC, but also the intensity of violence in these two States which are worst affected by Left Wing extremist violence in the country.

The MCC came into existence in an earlier avatar in 1969, as the Dakshin Desh, but took on the name of the Maoist Communist Centre in 1975. The outfit surfaced for the first time in undivided Bihar in 1972. Initially, the hilly tracts in Aurangabad district were the main theatre of its operation. Gradually, the MCC expanded its activities to south Bihar (now Jharkhand), central Bihar and north Bihar. At present, it is active in Patna, Aurangabad, Gaya, Jehanabad, Arwal, Nawada, Kaimur, Rohtas, Bhojpur, Motihari, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Jamui in Bihar. In Jharkhand, the MCC has a presence in Chatra, Palamu, Garhwa, Giridih, Latehar, Gumla, Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Lohardaga and Bokaro. The group has also made inroads into northern Orissa, eastern Uttar Pradesh and parts of West Bengal and Chhattisgarh. The MCC maintains a string of front organizations which include the Jan Suraksha Sangharsh Manch, Krantikari Sanskritik Sangh, Krantikari Buddhijivi Sangh, Nari Mukti Sangh, Krantikari Chhatra Sangh, Janwadi Shramik Sangh, Krantikari Kisan Committee, Communist Yuva League, Janwadi Mazdoor Sangathan Samiti and the Struggle Forum for People's Resistance. These front organizations exploit popular discontent and help provoke and mobilize anti-establishment sentiments, often by taking up legitimate grievances and issues that concern the local population. They also exploit the failure of mainstream political parties to address the day-to-day problems of common people, and given the quality of governance in these States, have succeeded in securing a significant measure of popular support in many areas.

In Bihar, the MCC claims to have formed 'guerrilla zones' in Bhagwanganj and Sigori areas of the Masaurhi subdivision of Patna district and Konch and Imamganj areas of Gaya district. Such zones are also said to have been established in the Palamu and Garhwa areas of neighbouring Jharkhand. The MCC runs a 'parallel government' in many areas of these districts. According to Bihar police estimates in the year 2002, a total of 53 armed squads of the MCC were active in the State, equipped with AK-47s, SLRs, .303 rifles and a range of other weapons.

The MCC had executed a number of brutal massacres, the first of which came to light on May 29, 1987, when 42 persons belonging to an 'upper caste' Rajput family were killed at Dalelchak-Baghaura village, Aurangabad district. Since then, the MCC has perpetrated a number of massacres, and their victims have also included a large number of poor dalits (the poorest and most oppressed section of the Hindu caste system). On February 12, 1999, the MCC massacred 37 members of the landowning upper caste people at Bara village, Gaya district in Bihar. On March 18, 1999, 34 persons were massacred in Senari village, Jehanabad district. On November 18, 1999, 12 persons were killed in Latu village, Palamu district. And on April 14, 2001, the MCC massacred 14 persons in Belpu village, Hazaribagh district in Jharkhand.

These massacres often reflect the deep polarization of society on the basis of caste. The MCC has come to be associated with social forces working against the upper castes. In fact, the success of the MCC in a State like Bihar - where the functioning of modern democratic institutions and political processes is primarily conditioned by caste, and the influence of this single factor on political actors and institutions is overwhelming - points to the fact that the trajectory of the Naxalite movement in Bihar has been influenced by the realities of grassroots politics and its complex interplay with organizational and personal ambitions, rather than the ideological imperatives of Maoism. The MCC was able to establish its presence in a large part of Bihar and Jharkhand because it has been able to exploit these conditions to its advantage, and to forge alliances with a number of significant social and political groupings in the regions of its operation. In Bihar, for instance, strong allegations are made linking the rise of the MCC to its alleged nexus with the ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

The internal organisation and functioning of the MCC has not remained immune to changes in social and political conditions either. Reports suggest that this militant grouping, like any other mainstream political formation, is increasingly plagued by divisions along the caste lines. In Jharkhand, differences reportedly exist between Yadav leaders and tribal members of the outfit. Financial imperatives and the urge to hold on to power have also fuelled the progressive criminalisation of cadres at the grassroots level. The killing of the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the Shahabad range, Sanjay Singh, in February 2002, was the handiwork of the MCC area commander of Kaimur. The murder was part of a plan hatched in association with the local forest mafia, which controls a number of stone-cutteing and timber business. The MCC has, in fact, been able to build up a huge financial empire, with independent estimates suggesting an annual revenue of at least one billion rupees a year, extracted from government offices, contractors, businessmen and industrialists. In parts of Bihar and Jharkhand, contractors have to pay approximately 30 percent of the allocated funds for various development projects as commission to the local commander of the MCC.

Another factor that adds to the strength of the MCC is its growing understanding with another Naxalite group, the People's War Group (PWG), and its deepening linkages with Maoist insurgents in Nepal. In 2001, the MCC and PWG entered into a strategic alliance. Both the groups agreed to refrain from encroaching on one another's territory and to work together for unification, consolidation and expansion of Maoist movements in India and across South Asia. In the same year, the MCC and the PWG formed the Simant Regional Committee, comprising the border areas of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Again in 2001, Maoists from Nepal and the MCC and PWG created the joint 'Indo-Nepal Border Regional Committee'. The consolidation of these links with the Nepali Maoists was demonstrated in the last week of February 2003, when security agencies in Bihar unearthed a well-entrenched network of Nepalese Maoists in Patna. Five Maoists were arrested when a hideout of the MCC was raided in Patrakar colony on February 25, 2003. Another four Maoists were arrested from the Gandhi Maidan area on February 27. Again, on February 28, the police recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition belonging to Nepalese Maoists during a raid on the home of a homeopathy doctor in the same city. Subsequent investigations revealed that the Maoists were using Patna as a transit point to arrange finances for their group. Earlier, an estimated 25 Maoist insurgents had been arrested from border districts of West and East Champaran, Sitamarhi, Sheohar and Madhubani. The porous 735 kilometre Bihar-Nepal border is highly prone to infiltration by the Maoists. Bihar has eight districts and 54 police stations situated on the border. Taking advantage of a general breakdown of law and order, the Nepalese Maoists have set up bases at several places along the border. Reports indicate the existence of training camps in the forests of Bagha in the West Champaran district, which has emerged as a safe haven for the Nepalese insurgents. These developments dovetail into the larger strategy to create a 'Compact Revolutionary Zone' (CRZ) stretching across Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Bihar, into Nepal, which is part of the projected plan for the unification of the extreme Left Wing movements across the region. The growth of the MCC in recent times is an important part of this strategy.

The State response to the growing strength of the MCC has been characterized by a lack of a proper intelligence network at the grassroots level, the lack of proper coordination between the police of the two States, an ill equipped police force, and lack of any coherent or comprehensive strategy to deal with groups like the MCC. Given the preparedness of police in these States and the overall performance of state institutions and political parties in Naxalite affected areas, it appears that the outfit like the MCC will gain power in future and will shape the course of the Maoist movement across the Indian sub-continent.



Weekly Fatalities: Major conflicts in South Asia
April 14-20, 2003

Security Force Personnel






     Jammu &










Total (INDIA)

*   Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Nine Lashkar-e-Toiba infiltrators killed on Line of Control: A major infiltration attempt was foiled by the security forces (SFs) on the Line of Control (LoC) at village Nar in the Balnoi area of Mendhar sector in Poonch district on April 20, 2003. Nine Pakistani infiltrators affiliated to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) group were killed during the operation, said official sources. These sources added that even as the SFs challenged the terrorists, Pakistani troops opened fire on forward Indian positions to provide cover to the infiltrators. Daily Excelsior, April 21, 2003.

Kashmir issue can be solved only through dialogue, says Premier Vajpayee: Addressing a public meeting at the Sher-i-Kashmir Stadium in Srinagar on April 18, 2003, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said the Kashmir issue cannot be solved through the barrel of the gun. The Premier also said the Union Government would ensure close cooperation with the State Government headed by Mufti Mohammed Sayeed for restoring peace in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Prime Minister, while accusing Pakistan of not responding to India's peace initiatives, added, "We again extend the hand of friendship. But it has to be both ways. Both sides should commit that they will live in peace and harmony." Emphasizing the need for a dialogue, Vajpayee noted, "I have said that every issue should be settled by talks. We are prepared. Talks can be on internal as well as external issues." Daily Excelsior, April 19, 2003.

Eight police personnel killed in landmine blast in Bihar: Eight police personnel were killed and three more seriously injured in a landmine blast set-off by left-wing extremists - Naxalites - of the proscribed Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in the dense forests of Cherki valley, Nawada district, on April 15, 2003. The Naxalites also looted six self-loading rifles (SLRs), two rifles, a revolver and several rounds of ammunition from them. The Hindu, April 16, 2003.

Naxalism spreading to newer areas, says Union Home Secretary: Despite the Government's claim that increasing number of left-wing extremists - Naxalites - have either been arrested or have surrendered, more areas are coming under the influence of Naxalism in the country, Union Home Secretary N. Gopalaswamy said in his testimony to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs. The Committee recently tabled in Parliament the report containing Gopalaswamy's testimony. ''The entire left-wing movement (is) spread over 53 districts in 9 states. Apart from the traditional strongholds of the movement, its newly acquired areas of influence were Chhattisgarh, the western districts of West Bengal, parts of north Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and eastern as well as southern Jharkhand,'' the Home Secretary said. He also said that ''for the first time, Jharkhand emerged as the worst affected, in terms of quantum of violence, overtaking Andhra Pradesh". Times of India, April 16, 2003.


Peace talks between Government and Maoist insurgents postponed: Media reports from Nepal have indicated that the first round of peace talks, termed as preliminary talks, which was to have been held on April 21, 2003, has been postponed after a meeting on April 20 between the Government negotiating team member and Minister Narayan Singh Pun, and Maoist insurgent leader and parallel government head Baburam Bhattarai. Another Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara was quoted as saying on April 20 that the Government was not "putting forward any concrete agenda," and hence the insurgents sought the postponement. Nepal News, April 21, 2003.


Sipah-e-Sahaba chief forms new party: Maulana Azam Tariq, chief of the outlawed Sunni group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), said in Karachi on April 20, 2003, that he and his followers had formed a new party to work for the "enforcement of Islamic edicts" in Pakistan. He said the new group called Millat-e-Islamia (MeI) wanted to bring about an Islamic revolution. "Our goals are now even higher and our agenda broader than what we had when we worked for the SSP," said Tariq who is also a Member of the National Assembly. While claiming "I am the central convener of the new party," he added, "We have already announced names of provincial conveners and soon will announce the organisational structure up to the district level." Daily Times, April 21, 2003.

Complete end to infiltration impossible, says Foreign Minister Kasuri: Pakistan claimed on April 19, 2003, that it has done its best to close all gaps on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir but that it was impossible to completely end infiltration. Stating this in Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri said "We try our best, we closed the camps and the collection of funds but it's very difficult to stop completely the movement across the de facto border between Pakistani and held Kashmir." Earlier, Foreign Office spokesperson Aziz Ahmed Khan rejected criticism from the United States that Pakistan had not done enough to control infiltration into the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. Jang, April 20, 2003.

Prime Minister Jamali welcomes Indian Premier Vajpayee's offers of talks: Responding to the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's offer of talks on the Kashmir issue, Pakistani Premier Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said in Islamabad, "We welcome it, we appreciate it." Vajpayee was speaking at a public meeting in Srinagar, the capital of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, on April 18, 2003. Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Jamali said Pakistan had always said talks were the only way to resolve issues. "On the main issue (of Kashmir) Pakistan's stand remains the same. But once talks start there...could be flexibility from both sides," he added. Paktribune, April 19, 2003.


Comparision (November-March Period) of Terrorist Violence
in Jammu and Kashmir: 2000 - 2003

November 2002-March 15 2003
November 2001-March 15 2002
November 2000-March 15 2001
Terrorist Violence Incidents of Violence
Attacks on SFs
Attacks on Others
Casualties SFs
Forces: Terrorists
Source: Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
SF = Security Force Personnel

The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.


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